Product owners vs. Product managers

3 min read

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of product development, two roles often stand out: the Product Owner (PO) and the Product Manager (PM). Both are critical to the success of a product, yet their responsibilities and focus areas can differ significantly. Understanding these differences is essential for organizations looking to optimize their product development processes and for professionals aiming to excel in these roles. This article delves into the distinct responsibilities, skills, and impact of Product Owners and Product Managers, providing a comprehensive guide to their unique contributions.

The Roles Defined

Product Owner (PO)

A Product Owner is a role defined by the Scrum framework, which is a popular agile methodology. The PO is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the development team. They focus on the tactical aspects of product development, working closely with the development team to ensure that the product backlog is prioritized and aligned with the product vision and customer needs.

Product Manager (PM)

A Product Manager, on the other hand, operates at a more strategic level. They are responsible for the overall vision, strategy, and roadmap of the product. PMs work across various teams, including marketing, sales, engineering, and support, to ensure that the product meets market needs and business objectives. They are the bridge between the company’s strategic goals and the tactical execution carried out by the development team.

Key Responsibilities

Product Owner Responsibilities:

  1. Product Backlog Management: The PO creates, prioritizes, and refines the product backlog. This involves writing user stories, defining acceptance criteria, and ensuring the backlog items are ready for development.
  2. Sprint Planning and Review: The PO actively participates in sprint planning meetings to help the team understand the backlog items and their priorities. They also review the sprint outcomes to ensure alignment with the product goals.
  3. Stakeholder Collaboration: The PO regularly communicates with stakeholders, including customers, to gather feedback and understand their needs. This feedback is then used to adjust the backlog priorities.
  4. Maximizing Product Value: The primary goal of the PO is to ensure that each increment of the product delivers maximum value to the customer and the business.

Product Manager Responsibilities:

  1. Product Vision and Strategy: The PM is responsible for defining the long-term vision and strategy for the product. This includes identifying market opportunities, setting strategic goals, and ensuring alignment with the company’s overall business strategy.
  2. Roadmap Development: The PM creates and maintains the product roadmap, which outlines the planned product features and milestones. The roadmap serves as a guide for the development team and other stakeholders.
  3. Market Research and Analysis: PMs conduct extensive market research to understand customer needs, competitive landscape, and industry trends. This information is crucial for making informed decisions about the product’s direction.
  4. Cross-functional Leadership: PMs work with various departments, including marketing, sales, and customer support, to ensure a cohesive approach to product development and launch. They also handle go-to-market strategies and post-launch activities.

Skills and Competencies

Skills for Product Owners:

  1. Detail-oriented: POs need to have a keen eye for detail, as they are responsible for writing clear and precise user stories and acceptance criteria.
  2. Agile Methodology Knowledge: A strong understanding of agile principles and Scrum practices is essential for effective backlog management and sprint planning.
  3. Communication Skills: POs must effectively communicate with the development team and stakeholders to ensure clarity and alignment on priorities.
  4. Decision-making: Quick and informed decision-making is crucial to adjust priorities based on stakeholder feedback and changing requirements.

Skills for Product Managers:

  1. Strategic Thinking: PMs must be able to think strategically to align the product vision with the company’s business goals and market opportunities.
  2. Market Analysis: Strong analytical skills are needed to interpret market data, customer feedback, and competitive analysis.
  3. Leadership: PMs need to lead cross-functional teams, requiring strong leadership and collaboration skills.
  4. Customer Focus: A deep understanding of customer needs and behaviors is critical for developing products that meet market demands.

How They Collaborate

While POs and PMs have distinct roles, their collaboration is vital for product success. Here’s how they typically work together:

  1. Defining the Vision: The PM sets the overarching product vision and strategy, which the PO uses to guide day-to-day decisions.
  2. Backlog Prioritization: The PM provides insights from market research and customer feedback, which the PO uses to prioritize the product backlog.
  3. Sprint Goals: The PO translates the strategic direction set by the PM into specific sprint goals and backlog items.
  4. Feedback Loop: The PM and PO maintain a continuous feedback loop to ensure the product development stays aligned with the strategic vision and market needs.


The roles of Product Owners and Product Managers are distinct yet complementary. While the Product Manager focuses on strategic vision, market research, and cross-functional leadership, the Product Owner ensures that this vision is effectively translated into actionable tasks for the development team. Both roles require unique skills and competencies, and their collaboration is essential for delivering products that meet both customer needs and business objectives.

Understanding the differences and synergies between POs and PMs can help organizations structure their product teams more effectively, ensuring that both strategic and tactical aspects of product development are well-covered. For professionals, mastering the skills required for these roles can lead to a successful and fulfilling career in product management.

Report bugs like it's 2024
Bug reports has looked the same since forever. You try to jam as much detail as possible to avoid the dreaded "can't reproduce". It's time to fix that. Whitespace captures every possible detail automatically and puts it all in a neat little package you can share as link.

Read more

Bug report template

Copy this bug report template into your bug tracking tool and use it as a template for all new bugs. This templates gives you a great foundation to organize your bugs. Read more

Published 1 min read
What is KPI?

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable values that demonstrate how effectively an organization is achieving key business objectives. Read more

Published 2 min read
Agile vs. Waterfall

In the realm of project management and software development, choosing the right methodology is crucial for the success of a project. Two of the most commonly used methodologies are Agile and Waterfall. Read more

Published 3 min read
One-click bug reports straight from your browser
Built and hosted in EU 🇪🇺